Black American farmers are at risk of losing their livelihoods, a key figure in black agriculture told the Atlanta Black Star.
The American Rescue Plan Act earmarked $4 billion in debt relief payments to “socially disadvantaged” farmers last March, but a court battle has put the money on hold. White farmers sued the US Department of Agriculture to stop the program, saying it discriminated against them, which is reverse racism.
National Black Farmers Association President John Boyd Jr. said farmers waiting for debt relief funding are receiving overdue letters for USDA loans they used to fund their farms. This prevents them from borrowing other funds to cover their expenses amid inflation and shortages.
Boyd calls on President Joe Biden to intervene. He said the president promised black farmers a meeting last July, but Biden’s office has yet to follow through.
“I was hoping the president would keep his word and come to the table and see what we could do together to work around some of the things,” Boyd told Atlanta Black Star.
Boyd pointed out that the debt relief program only covers a tiny fraction of what black farmers should recoup after decades of discriminatory policies that prevented black farmers from borrowing money and repossessed of their land. According to a May report by The New Republic, black farmers lost $326 billion in land between 1920 and 1997.
“It’s wrong what the government is doing to us. I don’t care if you’re Republican, Democrat or Independent. You know wrong is wrong, and I was one of the first people to support President Biden,” Boyd said “We’re not getting what we need from the administration right now, and it’s just not good from a group of people who overwhelmingly supported you and voted for you. .”
Biden received 92% of black votes in the 2020 presidential election, according to reports.
White Farms, in their legal complaint, argues that the program violated their constitutional right to equal protection. The relief program covers payments for Black, Native American, Alaska Native, Hispanic, Asian American or Pacific Islander farmers. While the fate of the funding is tied up in court, Boyd said black farmers are trying to find other ways to pay for their farms.
The USDA has told farmers to continue submitting their loan payment notification letters, and the agency will process them for prompt payment once funding is released. The USDA has also ended foreclosures from defaulting borrowers, but acknowledges that missing payments could be a barrier to further lending.
“It’s almost like 40 acres and a mule,” Boyd said. “So you promised these things to black people and then we basically chase our tails to get it back, and that’s not how it’s supposed to work,” Boyd said.
Eric Loewe, the director of African-American media at the White House, told Atlanta Black Star that officials from the USDA, the White House Domestic Council and the White Office of Public Engagement have been in constant contact with the National Black Farmers Association.
Yet the current plight of black farmers has soured the taste for the Biden administration, among others in the black community.
Professional basketball player and repairman Rashaad Singleton said the Biden administration’s inaction was disrespectful to black voters. He created a petition that garnered 79,000 signatures. He plans to take his fight to state houses and on Capitol Hill when he reaches his goal of 150,000 signatures.
However, Singleton, who has played basketball in other parts of the world, said he was disappointed with the lack of support black farmers received from professional athletes in the United States.
“I find it very stressful that I’m the only athlete talking about this. That’s what really bothers me. I’m just a foreign basketball player,” he told Atlanta Black Star. We need our NFL players to talk about this problem We need our NBA players to talk about this problem We need our black baseball players to talk Where are the black golfers?
Boyd also urged black America to unite and push for debt relief for black farmers.
“All these guys have their Twitter accounts and their social networks. If you can’t give it to them, then talk about it,” Boyd said. “I think that would help us, especially to let the administration know that black America is aware of this. It doesn’t look good.